Lava’s in the air. At least it is in Scouse Pacific, a rejuvenated Royal Court show from 2010 given a dust-off for the next month at the equally regenerated theatre.
The song is a touchstone for the production: a shamelessly daft pun that doubles as an excuse to trot out a well-oiled song-and-dance routine, to the enjoyment of a crowd that is, if not equally well-lubricated, then has certainly enjoyed a couple from the bar.
The food-drink-theatre offering at the Royal Court is one worth pondering. With cabaret-style seating in the stalls there’s always the opportunity to enjoy a meal beforehand and to bag a pint from the nearby bar at the interval. It’s clearly an attractive proposition and has helped distinguish the theatre’s offering in Liverpool from others.
Of course, it’s what’s on stage that has really set the Royal Court apart. The cast and crew have settled into a fine groove and are assured in realising these scousey plays: productions about Liverpool, by people from Liverpool, for a Liverpool audience.
“A night at the Royal Court is not unalike a raucous night at the pub.”
Here they riff on South Pacific, with some Father Ted, Brookside and Red Dwarf – the conceit of an island descended from the same scouser – thrown in for good measure. There are some goodies, some baddies, a love story… and yes, the usual mentions of local hostelry Smokie Mo’s, The Sun and the Wirral.
There’s also some punnery of the highest order. When one of the cast ponders “S’that an island?” another mishears it as one of the boroughs of Manhattan. The cast excel at delivering and reacting to these absurd gags, deftly judging how much to play off the audience in these moments of shared pleasure.
When Jeremy Hunt gets a mention to little reaction, Michael Stake mutters “not a political audience” in a stage whisper. And it’s these moments that match – and often excel – the scripted gags in their appeal.
The music hall set-up and style of the Royal Court’s productions gives the audience an impression of participation. In this way a night at the Royal Court is not unalike a raucous night at the pub. By the end the cast feel like friends. Indeed by the time everyone leaves the Courtyard next door for some bevvies, they probably are.
Royal Court Theatre
Until 10 August
Images: Activate Digital